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Introductory Cartography

Course Code: GEOG 1170
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

Would you like to create a map using just a compass? Are you interested in learning how to interpret a topographic map or aerial photograph for geography or environmental studies classes? Do you need to know how to design effective maps to communicate spatial information? This course introduces a range of topics in the field of cartography, the art, science and technology of map making. Topics include map projections, elementary field surveying, interpretation of aerial photography and satellite imagery, cartographic methods and design, thematic mapping, and an introduction to computer mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Course Content

  1. Introduction
    • Development of Cartography
    • Basic geodesy
    • Map projections
    • Introduction to datum systems
  2. Fundamental Map Elements
    • Concept of scale
    • Coordinate systems
    • Direction indicators
    • Data and legend
  3. Analysis and Interpretation of Topographic Maps
    • Types of terrain representation
    • Contour interpretation
    • Landform measurement, identification and interpretation
    • Topographic profile construction
    • Vertical exaggeration and gradient calculations
    • Cultural features on topographic maps
  4. Elementary Field Surveying
    • Use of the magnetic compass
    • Location by three measured sides, intersection and resection
    • Introductory triangulation and differential leveling
    • Compass traverse
    • Introduction to global positioning systems
  5. Remote Sensing
    • Electromagnetic radiation and methods of capturing spectral reflectance
    • Types of air photos
    • Introductory air photo interpretation and photogrammetry
    • Polar orbiting and geostationary satellites
    • Basics of satellite image interpretation
  6. Geographic Data
    • Nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio data
    • Qualitative and quantitative map symbols
    • Effective graphing of geographic data
  7. Cartographic Design
    • Cartographic design process
    • Generalization, selection and symbolization
    • Potential impacts of the design
  8. Thematic Maps
    • Qualitative and quantitative thematic maps
    • Types of quantitative thematic maps
    • Construction and interpretation of thematic maps
  9. Geographic Information Systems
    • Concept of a GIS
    • Applications

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: lecture, labs, field work, slides/videos, individual and/or team projects and small group discussions.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Labs 40%
Project 20%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe the development of cartographic concepts and techniques over time.
  2. Explain the responsibility of a cartographer to represent data that is accurate and consistent with the original purpose of a map, as well as cite examples of map misuses.
  3. Analyze, interpret and make measurements from topographic and thematic maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery.
  4. Create a map from three-leg compass traverse.
  5. Synthesize the concepts and techniques of cartography through the use of a formal cartographic design process to identify and collect relevant geographic data and design a thematic map to communicate these data effectively.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.